Archive for March, 2006


March 30, 2006 Comments off


By: Dusan Stojanovic & Ekrem Krasniqi

Serbia is able but not willing to arrest top Bosnian Serb war crimes suspect Ratko Mladic, enlargement commissioner Olli Rehn said on Thursday (30 March) after meeting Bosnia and Herzegovina’s leader Adnan Terzic in Brussels.

“We have a reasonable assumption that Serbia could arrest Mladic if it had the political will and if this political will was translated in concrete steps through the whole administration including the secret and intelligence services,” Mr Rehn said, according to Balkans agency DTT-NET.COM.

The statement comes one day before UN war crimes prosecutor Carla del Ponte flies from Belgrade to Brussels to give her opinion on whether the EU should suspend Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) negotiations with Serbia.

The EU is due to start the third round of SAA talks with Serbia on 4 April, but the commissioner refused to say if he will take a decision on the issue on Friday (31 March) or on Tuesday.

The SAA is the first legal step toward future EU membership for the Balkan country.

Chief U.N. war crimes prosecutor Carla Del Ponte pushed Serbia anew for the extradition of war crimes suspect Gen. Ratko Mladic, as Serbia neared a European Union deadline to arrest him or face sanctions.

Del Ponte met with Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica and President Boris Tadic in Belgrade Wednesday to discuss efforts by Serbian authorities to arrest and extradite Mladic, a former Bosnian Serb army commander wanted on genocide charges.

The EU has given Belgrade until the end of March to find Mladic and hand him over to the U.N. war crimes tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands, or face a suspension of talks – set for April 5 – on building closer ties with the bloc.

Serbian officials recently requested an extension of the deadline, saying more time was needed to hunt down Mladic, who was believed hiding in Serbia under the protection of army hard-liners. But the EU apparently turned down the request.

Tadic said in a statement after his meeting with Del Ponte that “even though the tribunal’s credibility eroded after the latest events, Serbia has to complete its cooperation with” the court.

Del Ponte is to report to EU ministers Friday in Brussels, Belgium, on her trip. According to a Serbian government statement on the meeting, Del Ponte said her report to the EU would depend on “concrete measures” taken by Serbian authorities to bring Mladic to justice.

“The suspension of the talks with the European Union would have far-reaching negative consequences for the political stability and democratic reforms in the country,” the statement said.

Del Ponte refused to speak to the media after the talks.

Del Ponte’s visit to Belgrade was her first since the death on March 11 of former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic in his prison cell near The Hague, where he was on trial for war crimes for his part in the bloody breakup of the country in the 1990s.

Milosevic’s death has jeopardized Serbia’s efforts to hand over more war crimes suspects to the U.N. tribunal. Ultra-nationalists have threatened to topple Kostunica’s government if Mladic and other Serb war crimes suspects are extradited to the court, which they consider anti-Serb.

Del Ponte also stopped Wednesday at the military base of the European Union peacekeeping force near Banja Luka in Bosnia, where she pressed the Bosnian Serb prime minister for the capture of another top war crimes suspect, Radovan Karadzic. He is believed to be hiding in the Serb-controlled half of Bosnia.

Mladic and Karadzic, the former political leader of Bosnia’s ethnic Serbs, were both indicted in 1995 on charges of orchestrating the massacre of over 8,000 defenceless Muslims in the U.N. enclave of Srebrenica – Europe’s worst genocide since World War II.

The level of Belgrade’s cooperation with Ms del Ponte’s International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) has deteriorated since last year when several Serb indictees were handed over to The Hague, Mr Rehn explained.

“We have a very clear statement in the framework Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) that we can not conclude the agreement without full cooperation with the ICTY,” he said.

“If [the] European Commission sees that there is deterioration of cooperation we must act.”

The ICTY has charged Mr Mladic and the former political leader of Bosnia’s Serb community, Radovan Karadzic, with crimes related to the killing of 8,000 Bosnian muslim boys and men in Srebrenica in 1995.

Ms del Ponte believes Mr Mladic is hiding in Serbia with the help of Serbian army officers, while she says that Mr Karadzic moves between the Republika Srpska region of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia.

The Serbian government on Wednesday asked for Ms del Ponte’s patience on the Mladic issue, given the fragile political scene and the strong nationalist sentiment in the country.

Bosnian prime minister Adnan Terzic denied some of Ms del Ponte’s claims, saying “according to the data we have Mladic and Karadzic aren’t in Bosnia, but their supporters are.”

He added that full EU membership for the western Balkans is the best way to avoid the tragedy of the 1990s from happening again.

“We survived one cataclysm. We survived the EU’s mistake at that time, but now the question is what is going to be the point if some member states make another mistake which the EU wouldn’t be able to survive?” Mr Terzic said.

His remarks were a veiled reference to France, Germany and the Netherlands which have lately begun to question if the EU can take in any more states after Bulgaria, Romania and Croatia.

But the prime minister added he was “encouraged” by Mr Rehn’s “reaffirmation and confirmation” of the region’s EU membership perspective, despite the “dissonant tones” from member states.

Bosnia and Herzegovina launched SAA talks with the EU last November, with Mr Rehn on Thursday urging progress in police, legislative and economic reforms.


March 30, 2006 Comments off



About 10 days after Serb paramilitary forces attacked the town of Zvornik at the start of the Bosnian war in April 1992, an American diplomat called on Slobodan Milosevic and complained that “volunteer” forces were continuing to pour into Bosnia from Serbia to wreak havoc on the civilian population.The Serbian president replied that he was not responsible, “but if this sort of thing was going on, he would try to stop it,” diplomat Ralph Johnson later recalled.

The paramilitary “Tigers,” who were executing civilians in the streets, terrorizing the population and sacking the town, had, in fact, coordinated their attack with the official Yugoslav army.

Their leader, Zeljko Raznjatovic, was even able to summon artillery cover from the federal army on demand. Milosevic was well in the picture, having received updates from the war front hourly if not more frequently, according to senior army officers.Zvornik showed Milosevic at his most cunning – using unofficial proxies under official command, pretending ignorance and lying to the international community. The attack on Zvornik was also a trial run for a combined army-paramilitary operation, which proved so successful that he repeated it in Bosnian towns all along the Drina River valley, denying any role at all times.

Manipulating loyalty

Bosnia was the second of the four wars Milosevic instigated between 1991 and 1999 in his drive to create a “greater Serbia” on the ruins of the multiethnic Yugoslav state. He ducked responsibility and lied at every turn, and until he was deposed from power and sent by a successor government to The Hague for trial on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity, he never had to account for anything during more than a decade in power. When he died in his cell at The Hague Tribunal yesterday, Milosevic averted a final judgment of his role in the chaos he had visited upon his former country and upon Europe.

The crimes for which he was charged were without parallel in Europe since Hitler’s rampage in World War II. They include the murder of thousands of men in concentration camps, the systematic rape of thousands of women, the destruction of cities such as Sarajevo and Vukovar, the devastation of the economy of the entire region, the massacre of at least 7,000 men and boys at Srebrenica and the near-destruction of the Bosnian civilization, a multiethnic jewel in the southeast corner of Europe.

By never admitting responsibility, Milosevic managed to keep the loyalty of many of his fellow Serbs, who accepted his claim that he was protecting them from a ‘fundamentalist Muslim state’ in their midst.

Struggle to retain power

His emergence on the European scene followed one of the unexpected turning points of history, the peaceful transition throughout Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union from one-party Communist states to multiparty incipient democracies. Post World War II Yugoslavia had been Communist but independent of Soviet control, and under its founder Josip Broz Tito had developed a socialist economy with a human face.

Communism collapsed in Yugoslavia as everywhere else due largely to the corruption that comes with being in power for nearly a half century, and Milosevic, a trained apparatchik who rose through party ranks, was the first to discover a way to stay in power after his party lost public support.Using the Serb predominance in the federal army and police, Milosevic imposed Serb control over Kosovo, an ethnic Albanian province of Serbia, and seized parts of Croatia, a mostly Roman Catholic republic, and Bosnia, a melting pot of Muslims, Catholics and Orthodox.

Reluctant intervention

He couldn’t have done it without the acquiescence of the United States and western European states. Upon Newsday’s first reports of mass killings in concentration camps in 1992, then-President George H.W. Bush said the conflict under way had “ancient and complex roots” and the United States had no role to play.

It took 3 1/2 years and the massacre at Srebrenica before Bush’s successor, Bill Clinton, reluctantly led NATO into an intervention that halted the war. In 1999, Clinton’s secretary of state, Madeleine Albright, organized NATO behind a U.S. air intervention in Kosovo to prevent another massive atrocity on the level of Bosnia, where as many as 200,000 civilians died.

In her previous job as UN ambassador, Albright had led the drive to set up The Hague Tribunal, the first war crimes court since Nazis were put on trial at Nuremberg. Milosevic went into the dock in mid-2001 and did his best to turn the proceedings into a political circus as he refused outside counsel and conducted his own trial. He admitted no responsibility for any of the atrocities, insisting, for example, that Srebrenica was an “anti-Serb plot.” He did not live to have judgment presented against him, and there will be those in his home country who accept his denials. But for everyone else, including all the coming generations in Serbia, the facts will be on record.

Roy Gutman reported the series of wars over the breakup of Yugoslavia throughout the 1990s for Newsday, including the “ethnic cleansing” of Bosnia.


March 28, 2006 3 comments
Srebrenica: a genocide foretold

Author: Nenad Popovic

The founder of the Zagreb-based publishers Durieux reviews a major new book on Srebrenica by Sylvie Matton, who spoke at a recent Bosnia Institute forum

Review of Sylvie Matton, Srebrenica: un génocide annoncé, Flammarion, Paris 2005

On the tenth anniversary of the Srebrenica genocide, the French writer and journalist Sylvie Matton asked herself a very simple question: How come that mass suffering began there in 1992; that for three years tens of thousands of people of all ages, from nursing babies to the very old, experienced chronic famine and death in this small area; that in 1995 this huge concentration camp turned into a place of systematic execution of its inhabitants; that thousands of survivors continue to endure the distress of living in the miserable conditions of refugee existence?

Since the author was not one of those who directly witnessed the war and ‘ethnic cleansing’ in the area of the former Yugoslavia, she searched for answers in documents, articles, film material, court testimonies and books. Faced with an ever growing number of disparate and contradictory accounts, she conducted in parallel interviews with some key personalities on the international political stage: high UN officials, government ministers, generals, negotiators and diplomats – such as, for example, former French foreign minister Hubert Védrine, Swedish politician Carl Bildt, French generals Bernard Janvier and Jean Cot.

Sticking to the simplest method, the author obtained the most devastating of all possible result, filling nearly four hundred and fifty pages. As early as June 1991 (does anyone still remember Vukovar?) Western intelligence services informed their politicians of Serbia’s true intentions in regard to the war of territorial expansion accompanied by ethnic cleansing. Again, in the months before the attack on Sarajevo the West had accurate information on the positioning of the JNA’s artillery around the city. Again, France and Great Britain spent years manipulating other members of the Security Council in favour of the creation of a large Serbian state in the Balkans, at the cost, moreover, of genocide than in progress. Again, Karadžić’s order Kill them all! was recorded by the West’s monitoring services and forwarded to those higher up. …

They all knew all. Not only was it possible to save Srebrenica, it was possible even to prevent the war in Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina and thus the killing of some 200,000 people and the dispossession of millions who have lost their homes and families and have come to suffer permanent physical and mental disabilities.

Sylvie Matton’s book would not be an exceptionally important and great work, if all this were merely stated. It is important because the author has taken the trouble to reconstruct every telefax sent from Srebrenica, every comma and every half sentence she has managed to uncover; and to use it all to embarrass her esteemed interlocutors (she is masterly with Bildt); to put together exact tables of the movements of the important protagonists; to learn the type, rhythm and approximate number of telephone conversation made at the height of the Srebrenica crisis by Yasushi Akashi; to measure the distance between two rooms at the UN headquarters in Zagreb (where misunderstandings occurred, telephones malfunctioned, etc); to learn about the warning words addressed every Monday at 2 o’clock by Mitterrand to his inner cabinet, whenever someone mentioned Serbia; to record the size of the fees earned by General McKenzie lecturing in Canada and the United States as an alleged expert on Bosnia; to establish in which laboratory in the Netherlands the films that Dutch soldiers had made of the mass executions in Srebrenica were lost or spoilt; to analyse how UN documents were crossed out or falsified (they were crossed out and falsified so many times by people working within the organization’s hierarchy that sometimes the truth managed to come through, along with contradictory passages, impossible dates, words revealing knowledge of something not registered in the text in which they appear).

This is why this book makes you shiver, despite the passage of time. Or, more accurately, today more than ever. Liars, self-important officials, mental or indifferent malefactors like Boutros Boutros Ghali, pathetic careerists like Kofi Annan, snobs like Yasushi Akashi, unscrupulous creatures like Douglas Hurd, form a gallery of individuals who speak here with their own words and deeds – while ‘down there’ genocide is running its course, characters called Izetbegović and Saćirbegović are banging on the door, a country is falling into complete chaos, and blood flows in rivers.

The Eichmann Syndrome

One shivers because the genocide in Srebrenica – which for the author is but the finale of a methodical implementation of the strategy of ethnic cleansing of the projected Serbian state – was not just foretold. The book’s title moderates the results of the author’s own research. Her work is investigation for prosecution: it was known from the start what was happening; possible indeed to predict in advance in every detail what would happen, yet the killers were not stopped. On the contrary. To be sure they were stopped in the end, but only when the thing became unbearable; when, for example, Al Gore had to explain to his young daughter the meaning of a picture in an illustrated magazine showing another young woman pushed by despair into hanging herself from a tree.

One may be tempted to say that all this is already known. But that is not true. We don’t, we didn’t know, at least not ‘all’. What was suspected, what appeared discernible, is here analysed, checked and laid out to form a large and logical picture, with a depth of frightening extent. For Sylvie Matton is also very militant. Rejecting the cynical political discourse, she puts in italics ethnic cleansing (it being genocide) and safe area (meaning concentration camp); and when she quotes phrases about the killing of Muslims, she puts Muslims too in italics because it is people who were being killed. She leaves not a millimetre of space for excuses, suppositions and relativism. She speaks throughout like a citizen: revolted, disgusted, compassionate and, possibly also, frightened by what she has uncovered.

This is expressed not only through her solidarity with the victimised. She also provides fitting portraits of those higher and lower powerbrokers on the international scene who had the courage, morals and passion to do something, to resist. Here we come across persons whom we may know only superficially, but who paid for their efforts with being belittled, pressurised, held back in their careers, embittered. Worse still is that the political and bureaucratic class, intent on brushing everything under the carpet, ensured that such moral individuals should appear in the eyes of the public as involved in the same crimes as all the others. Yet there is a world of difference between people like Tadeusz Masowiezki, who resigned because Srebrenica was not saved; Florence Hartmann, the author of an early book on Milošević; the French ambassador George-Marie Chenu, who recorded what people really said; Margaret Thatcher, who was laughed at for demanding intervention; the impotent Alija Izetbegović, who was made to shake hands with the butcher of his people before cameras in Paris; and on the other hand cowards like the Dutch colonel Karremanns, who took with him from Srebrenica a bottle of plum brandy given to him with a smirk by Ratko Mladić; or François Leotard, though the latter, formerly the French minister of defence, did summon up enough courage to tell the truth publicly ten years later, albeit in the form of a novel entitled no more or less than Nostalgic Life of the Jelly Fish.

Sylvie Matton, by contrast, was not given to writing poetry. Her precise chapters – different people will find different chapters to admire in particular: I myself was singularly impressed by the passages on the deadly manipulation in diplomatic language, as well as by the episode in which General Morillon of his own will and contrary to orders prevented the invasion of Srebrenica on 12 March 1993 – guide us in a disciplined manner towards the inevitable and unbearable finale, when she confronts us in an equally disciplined manner with , for example, the description of a baby’s decapitation in front of its mother’s eyes. The mother fainted in response.

Although a documentary work, this book is not an account of genocide like that of Roy Gutman or David Rohde. On its cover, the word Srebrenica signifies far more. Its stands for Auschwitz, just as the trial in The Hague stands in her book in place of Nuremberg, and just as the image of Adolf Eichmann, the pale and indifferent killer behind a typewriter, floats before our eyes as we read it. The book appears in this regard as an exemplary investigation into contemporary civilisation. A civilisation which, as we know, produces every now and then little Hitlers in the persons of Pol Pot, Radovan Karadžić, or Osama Bin Laden. Sylvie Matton helps us to understand this better. She shows how the Eichmann syndrome still remains operative.

Translated from Dani (Sarajevo), 3 March 2006


March 26, 2006 Comments off

Anger at BBC genocide film

Survivors were traumatised after being used as extras in a re-creation of the Rwanda killings

By: Alice O’Keeffe

A BBC-funded film about the Rwandan genocide billed as an ‘authentic re-creation’ of a real-life story, is facing criticism for exacerbating the trauma experienced by genocide survivors. Backed by the Rwandan government, shot on location in the country and to be premiered there this week, Shooting Dogs was intended to raise awareness of the conflict. Aid organisations are now saying that it was a shot with a lack of sensitivity so soon after the events.
The film, which stars Hugh Dancy and John Hurt, tells the story of a massacre at a school, L’Ecole Technique Officielle, during the genocide in 1994. It includes scenes in which machete-wielding Interahamwe militia close in on the building, hacking women and children to death. It was filmed where the atrocity took place, using many local people, including genocide survivors, as extras and members of the crew.
Aid workers have expressed concern that some local people were traumatised by witnessing the reconstruction. On one occasion, students from a nearby school had to be taken to hospital and sedated when they suffered flashbacks after overhearing the chants and whistles of the angry mob. One member of the crew suffered a breakdown when he was taken back to the street where he had been forced to hide down a manhole for three months to escape the killers.
‘In Rwanda, if you see a machete being wielded it doesn’t matter if it’s for a film – it seems real,’ said Mary Kayitesi Blewitt, director of the UK-based Rwandan charity Survivors’ Fund. ‘When the shoot was over, we had to step up trauma counselling. It took some people six months to overcome the anxiety, fear and paranoia.’
Like two other recent films about the genocide – Sometimes in April and Hotel Rwanda – Shooting Dogs is due to be screened in Kigali this month.
‘We’re providing pamphlets and counselling to prepare people for seeing it,’ said Blewitt. ‘What really hurts is that the BBC will be making money from the film, but it has not put a penny into the organisations dealing with all this.’
A Unicef spokesman said: ‘It’s important to highlight issues like the Rwandan conflict, but reliving these experiences can be traumatic for children and we encourage journalists and others who work with survivors to adhere to our guidelines.’
David Belton, who wrote and produced Shooting Dogs, said that he ‘deeply regretted’ the incident with the students. ‘We took great pains to avoid local people being confronted with the disturbing scenes, and had two trauma counsellors and medical staff on hand.
‘I have been in close communication with the Rwandan government and organisations working there since we left, and none of them has mentioned any subsequent problems. We made the film in Rwanda because the Rwandans wanted us to. They were appalled that Hotel Rwanda was filmed in South Africa, with South African actors.’
Helen Bamber, director of the Helen Bamber Foundation for conflict survivors, criticised the decision not to vet any of the extras about their involvement in the 1994 massacre. Those who were likely to have perpetrated the killing, mainly from the Hutu tribe, were cast alongside their Tutsi victims. ‘Who knows what kind of emotions that stirred up for the victims, and what kind of tensions it left behind?’

· Linda Melvern, author of A People Betrayed: The Role of the West in Rwanda’s Genocide, argues in The Observer today that the film is inaccurate and misrepresents the BBC’s role in reporting the atrocities.

History? This film is fiction

A new BBC film telling the ‘truth’ of events in Rwanda only compounds the original sins of the West’s media
By: Linda Melvern
In the course of a few terrible months in 1994, up to one million people were killed in Rwanda in organised and systematic massacres. It was slaughter on a scale not seen since the Nazi extermination programme. The comparison with the Holocaust is impossible to resist, for the central purpose was the elimination of a people. Every Tutsi was targeted. The failure of the Security Council of the UN to act responsibly is one of the great scandals of the 20th century.The failure extends to the Western media, including the BBC; inadequate reporting contributed to indifference and inaction. It was not a glorious moment for BBC news.
Yet, due for release next week, is a BBC-financed film about the genocide, Shooting Dogs, starring John Hurt as a brave British priest. The film is billed as an ‘authentic recreation’, shot on location with Rwandan extras playing the roles of the Interahamwe militia. The film is said to be based on the ‘true story’ and ‘real events’ that took place in the first days of the killing. The story centres on a massacre at a school, the Ecole Technique Officielle (ETO), where Belgian peacekeepers abandoned thousands of people, ordered by the Belgian government to help, instead, with the frenzied evacuation of all expatriates.
A BBC journalist is present at the school and challenges the peacekeepers as they leave, using the word genocide to describe what is happening.
But this is fiction. There was no BBC film crew at ETO. There were no BBC film crews in Rwanda in those crucial early weeks. Nor did BBC news broadcasts tell the world a genocide was underway. In April 1994, as the massacre took place, the BBC was reporting the evacuation of expats and the renewed civil war between ‘tribal factions’. Shooting Dogs shows a shocking disregard for the historical record. It was not until 29 April that the word genocide was used by the BBC. The press was no better. Later, the first international inquiry into the genocide was to conclude that the Western media’s failure to describe the genocide underway in Rwanda had contributed to the crime itself. It was left to NGOs, notably Oxfam and Amnesty International, to draw attention to the terrible events.
And while the school scene portrays the BBC journalist as heroic and the peacekeepers as brutish and uncaring, the film omits any reference at all to the later bravery of volunteer peacekeepers who did save lives in Rwanda.
And while blaming ‘the UN’ for the failure in Rwanda, Shooting Dogs shows UN peacekeepers awash with ammunition and weapons. The very opposite was true. As the force commander, Lt General Roméo Dallaire, cabled UN headquarters: ‘The ineffective reaction to meeting the critical needs of this mission is nothing less than scandalous from the word go and even bordering on the irresponsible…this has directly led to the loss of many more Rwandan lives, to the casualties among our troops.’
Dallaire still believes that with greater public awareness there may have been some attempt to help Rwanda. Inadequate press coverage bolstered arguments that only a massive intervention would succeed. Dallaire’s estimate that just 5,000 trained and mobile reinforcements could have contained the genocide went unreported.
The depiction of the massacre at Eto upon which Shooting Dogs is based is misleading. It was not a screaming and rampaging mob of machete-wielding youths who killed those sheltering at the school. It was far more chilling. After the Belgians withdrew, the 2,000 people were herded on a death march, an operation co-ordinated by senior officers of the Rwandan military, soldiers trained at European military academies. Among them were the conspirators of the genocide, officers who, for three years, had been plotting the slaughter. The conspiracy involved Rwanda’s political, military and administrative leadership. Their aim had been to create a ‘pure Hutu state’.
The victims of the EtO massacre were killed in a gravel pit by the Presidential Guard, who sealed the exits, allowing the militia to use their machetes in order to save on ammunition. Such co-ordination would become commonplace, the deadly co-operation of military and militia speeding the killing. The majority of the estimated one million victims in Rwanda were murdered in the first five weeks.
One of the few survivors of the Eto massacre, Venuste Karasira, said they all knew they would be killed. He gave me his story: ‘I would like that the whole world thinks about [this tragedy] so that this coming century the whole international community takes enough strategy to stop such a tragedy in centuries to come.’
This is the fourth feature film based on the Rwandan genocide: there is no doubting the genuine and intense feeling of the film-makers, nor that they will generate a keener awareness of the brutal truth of the genocide. But because of this, they have a heavy responsibility to tell the truth.
Last year, there was a special showing of Hotel Rwanda in the Hague. In the audience was a Polish officer, Major Stefan Stec, one of the volunteer peacekeepers in Lt Gen Roméo Dallaire’s force. After the film, which also portrays the peacekeepers as ineffectual, there was a panel discussion during which Stec was publicly blamed for not having done enough to save Rwandan lives.
Yet it had been Stec, grenade in hand, who had faced down the militia in the attempt in May to evacuate some of those trapped in the Hotel des Mille Collines. It had been Stec who read the names in a crowded lobby of those to be evacuated, but only those with the requisite visas to enter Belgium. There were just four Tunisian peacekeepers protecting people in this high-profile hotel. By the end of May, there were 91 similar sites all over Rwanda. There were only enough peacekeepers to guard four of them.
Post-traumatic stress is a mysterious illness. Stec fell ill after the viewing of Hotel Rwanda. He stopped eating and in spite of help from psychiatrists who had treated soldiers from the Dutch battalion in Srebrenica, Stec died late last year. He feared that the wider public would never understand the truth of Rwanda and that Western politicians and diplomats would forever escape accountability for their decisions. For three months, they had played down the crisis, arguing that nothing could be done in Rwanda. Meanwhile, Stec and his colleagues had done all they could.
The international failure to predict the genocide – and there was a mass of evidence of its planning – the failure to prevent it and then to halt its progress merit the most precise documentation. To have created an inadequate peacekeeping mission that was suitable only for the most benign circumstances, and to leave it in place in an increasingly hostile environment, was a terrible error. It should be fully documented. Instead, the BBC has spent money on a fictional account of genocide, a film that takes our knowledge of this terrible crime no further forward at all.
· Linda Melvern is the author of Conspiracy to Murder. The Rwandan Genocide (Verso). An updated and revised version will be published next month.


March 26, 2006 Comments off

Chechnya: In Remembrance of Genocide; World Chechnya Day

February 23, 2006 was the 62nd anniversary of one of the 20th century’s worst genocides. It marked the day the Soviet Union, under Josef Stalin, deported the entire Chechen nation to Central Asia, killing massive numbers of innocent civilians.
In the upheaval of Russia’s Bolshevik revolution, the communist forces had failed to completely quell the mountaineers’ resistance. After a vicious nine-month war, perhaps the fiercest local struggle in the Russian Civil War, the last Chechen rebel stronghold fell in May of 1921.

However, violence continued to flare up sporadically in Chechnya, prompted by the Soviet’s agricultural collectivization and repressive security polices, particularly with regard to religion. In the manner of their ancestors, Chechens would form small guerrilla groups and fight from the mountains.
After the German surrender in World War II, Stalin accused several of the Caucasian nations in their entirety of collusion with the Fascists. Against these nations he pronounced a sentence of “likvidatsia”: liquidation.

On February 23, 1944, tens of thousands of Soviet troops herded the entire Chechen nation onto trains. Chechnya, along with several other Caucasian republics, was emptied out. The plan was to erase the Chechens, their history, and their culture. References to them were stricken from the “Great Soviet Encyclopedia.”
Those who could not be transported, such as residents of remote mountain villages, or patients in hospital, were executed. In at least a couple of incidents, people were forced into barns or mosques that were then burned down with all inside.
Soviet figures put the number of Chechens and Ingush loaded on to the trains at 478,479. The “official” number dumped, freezing and starving into the Kazakh steppes were 400,478—suggesting 78,000 had died in transit, or shortly after arrival. That death toll is held by many to be conservative.
Sixty years later, the European Parliament recognized the mass deportation and exile of the Chechen and Ingush nations as an act of Soviet genocide.
The World Chechnya Day web site brings together an invaluable collection of personal accounts of the genocide, a historical account of the exile, and tracks events taking place around the world to mark the anniversary.
In remembrance of Russia’s past genocide of the Chechens, and its ongoing brutal occupation of Chechnya, presents this selection of articles from our coverage of the war-torn country.

Related: World Chechnya Day: Remembering Chechnya Genocide


March 26, 2006 Comments off

Will We Just Sit By As Darfur Suffers?

“Save Darfur: A Rally to Stop Genocide” will be held on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., on April 30. Speakers will include religious and political leaders, human rights activists, survivors of the Holocaust and genocides in Cambodia, Kosovo, Srebrenica, Rwanda, South Sudan and Darfur, and celebrities.

By Luanne Austin
Congress last week approved President Bush’s request for an additional $439 million to help the people in Darfur, Sudan, reports the States News Service.
Darfur, where 400,000 people have been slaughtered in three years.
Darfur, where 3.5 million people have no food.
Darfur, where 2.5 million people are homeless because of the violence.
Women are being raped every day. Children are dying of hunger. Men are being gunned down.
A few weeks ago, the movie “Hotel Rwanda” arrived in the mail from Netflix. Yes, I had put it on the list, but I struggled a few days before watching it. I do not watch movies to be entertained into a lethargic state.
I knew that in Rwanda in 1994 nearly a million people were slaughtered in three months. A million people in three months. And I knew that a genocide of potential similar proportion is happening right now in Darfur, a region in Sudan.
I also knew that once I’d seen the “Hotel Rwanda,” I’d be responsible for that knowledge. I am assaulted daily with information I do not seek or want, but I knew what I was getting into by watching this movie. Before the opening credits, the actor, Don Cheadle, who played the main character, talked about how the people of Sudan are right now suffering similar atrocities as their Rwandan neighbors did 12 years ago.
In July 2004, the U.S. Holocaust Museum and American Jewish World Service held a Darfur Emergency Summit. Elie Wiesel, a Holocaust survivor and Nobel Prize-winning author, called upon fellow Jews to get involved.
“How can anyone who remembers remain silent?” Wiesel asked, invoking the biblical law, “Thou shalt not stand idly by the shedding of blood of thy fellow man.”
Jesus taught only two commandments: to love God and to love our neighbor. When a lawyer asked, “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus answered with the story of the good Samaritan: anyone you see suffering.
President Bush, when he took office in 2001, wrote in the margins of a report on Rwanda, “Not on my watch.” Darfur activists, concerned citizens and alarmed leaders are holding him to that. Our country has been the largest single donor to Sudan. We facilitated the Comprehensive Peace Accord, which brought an end to civil war between the country’s north and south. But the present government in Khartoum has continued to back the Jingeweit (or Janjaweed) militia that is doing the killing, raping and destroying.
When House of Representatives Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) led a bipartisan delegation to Sudan in February, Sudan Vice President Ali Osman Taha asked her why Americans were so interested in Sudan’s domestic affairs.
Pelosi replied that “genocide is not the domestic affair of any nation — it concerns the world,” according to a States News Service article published on March 20.
The New York Times reported Tuesday that Jan Pronk, head of a United Nations envoy to Sudan, reported that “killings, rapes and armed attacks on Darfur villagers were committed by armed gangs secure in the knowledge that no one would stop or punish them.” Pronk called on the United Nations to help the 7,000 African Union peacekeeping troops. The peacekeepers, overwhelmed by the violence, may soon need to withdraw, says Pronk.
The U.N. has decided to do nothing for the present because they’ve been squabbling over whether the situation classifies as genocide.
A Web site,, has lots of information on the history and current news of the Sudan conflict, what’s been done about it and what can be done. It’s the Web site of the Save Darfur Coalition, an alliance of more than 155 faith-based, humanitarian and human rights organizations.
The coalition calls upon people everywhere to help with specific action: the Million Voices for Darfur post card campaign, church prayer services, educational community events, the ambassador program and sending aid.
“Save Darfur: A Rally to Stop Genocide” will be held on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., on April 30. Speakers will include religious and political leaders, human rights activists, survivors of the Holocaust and genocides in Cambodia, Kosovo, Srebrenica, Rwanda, South Sudan and Darfur, and celebrities.
When Paul Rusesabagina, the hotel manager whose brave actions saved 1,268 of his Rwandan countrymen, thanked Jack Daglish, a news cameraman, for shooting footage of the genocide, Jack replied, “I think if people see this footage, they’ll say, ‘Oh, my God, that’s horrible. And then they’ll go on eating their dinners.’ “

Will we?

Contact Luanne Austin at 574-6292 or

Related: Take Action to Stop Genocide in Darfur


March 26, 2006 Comments off


– U.N. Commission of Experts led by Cherif Bassiouni conducted a thorough study of the human rights abuses in Bosnia. The results of the study unequivocally and unambiguously demonstrate that Serb forces committed the overwhelming majority of the war crimes in Bosnia. The study also acknowledges that all warring parties committed grave breaches of the Geneva convention. None the less, the study also makes perfectly clear that only the Serb side committed human rights violations as part of their policy of ethnic cleansing. Even though all war crimes are morally reprehensible, those committed by Bosnian forces were not part of the policy of ethnic cleansing. Moreover, Bosnian government troops comprised members of all religious groups; it was not uncommon that Serbs and Croats fought alongside Bosniaks.

– Human Rights Watch (HRW) found, in accordance with the above mentioned study, that Serb forces committed most war crimes in Bosnia. A 1996 report by the HRW accounts for the systematic and deliberate expulsion of Bosniaks and other non-Serbs from northwestern Bosnia, implicating a notorious war criminal Zeljko Raznjatovic a.k.a. Arkan and his paramilitary Serbian troops in “implementing” the policy of ethnic cleansing.

– A study by the Amnesty International titled Bosnia-Herzegovina Gross Abuses of Basic Human Rights divulges the complicity of Serbia and Croatia in aiding and abetting Serb and Croat side in the Bosnian war. According to this report, Serbia and Croatia provided both political and military support to Bosnian Serbs and Croats.

– U.S. Department of State writes in its 1994 report on the war in Bosnia that only Bosnian Serb forces engaged in the policy of ethnic cleansing. The report further discloses the fact that Bosnian Serbs received full support from Belgrade. Furthermore, this report demonstrates that Bosnian Serbs sought to create a “Greater Serbia” by ethnically cleansing Bosnia of all non-Serbs. This report also corrects the common misconception of the Bosnian government forces as “Islamic fundamentalists”. As the report makes perfectly clear, the Bosnian government forces fought for a multiethnic society….

Read more at Alan Kocevic’s blog.


March 23, 2006 Comments off


By Lawrence Douglas

Last summer in The Hague, Netherlands, I asked several prosecutors working on the war-crimes trial of Slobodan Milosevic to imagine their nightmare scenario. None of them mentioned acquittal.
They all turned to the fear that history would judge the trial a colossal failure if, after years of testimony and hundreds of millions of dollars spent, the former Yugoslav president died before a verdict could be reached and justice could be done.
Now that the prosecutors’ worst fears have come to pass, will history really be so severe?
Certainly the trial, the first of a former head of state before an international court, had been going on for too long.
What started in 2002 as groundbreaking and spectacular had long since vanished from the headlines. During the weeks that I observed the trial from an often empty gallery, university students occasionally would file in, exchange their iPods for court headsets, excitedly gesture in the direction of the defendant and then quickly grow listless.
Why was the trial such a bore? In part because it was a trial. It’s worth recalling that the Nuremberg trials, now enjoying hagiographic 60th anniversary celebrations, were once likewise attacked as staggeringly dull.
Rebecca West, who covered Nuremberg for Britain’s Daily Telegraph, famously described the trials as a “citadel of boredom.” Yet if one of the purposes of a war crimes trial is to re-introduce the rule of law into a radically lawless realm, the very dryness of the proceeding can be construed as a triumph of legal sobriety over chaos.
Still, the trial of the major war criminals at Nuremberg took a breezy 11 months, and the Milosevic trial had wended its way into its fourth year. What was taking so long? Milosevic’s health problems slowed the proceeding — causing long interruptions and a shortened schedule each week — but crucial missteps by the court and the prosecution also were to blame.
Early on, the court, with little objection from the prosecution, acceded to Milosevic’s demand that he be allowed to present his own defense. Courts have long recognized such a right, yet it has never been considered absolute. In Faretta vs. California (1975), a case The Hague court relied on, the U.S. Supreme Court noted that a defendant’s right to defend himself did not include a right to insult the dignity of the court.
Yet this is exactly what Milosevic got away with, time and time again. Almost from the start the court found itself hostage to the defendant’s tendentious, time-consuming and yet not unresourceful harangues. (One prosecutor acknowledged to me, “There’s no doubt who’s the smartest guy in the courtroom.”)
These displays permitted Milosevic to cast himself as a lone warrior standing up to the West, a picture that played well to a Serb audience. Having recognized the defendant’s right to defend himself, the judges were reluctant to curtail it, lest they be seen as confirming Milosevic’s assertion that the entire proceeding was a political farce.
The prosecution also made an early, fateful misstep in tendering an overly broad and ambitious indictment. The decision was understandable: Having finally seized the architect of the Balkan calamity, prosecutors were not about to charge Milosevic with the kind of relatively minor offenses for which Saddam Hussein is being tried.
And yet the Hussein prosecutors’ modest charge sheet clearly reflects their attempt to learn from the mistakes of the Milosevic prosecution. The unwieldy, 66-count indictment — which charged Milosevic with war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide in Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo — slowed the trial, made for an unfocused and confusing presentation of evidence and played into Milosevic’s argument that the details were too complicated to be digested in court.
Still, it is too early to condemn the Milosevic trial as a failure. One of the great, if overlooked, achievements of the Nuremberg trials was the astonishing trove of documents and materials assembled by researchers and prosecutors and since mined by generations of historians. I suspect the Milosevic trial will provide similar rewards to future historians of the Balkan wars.
Finally, it’s worth remembering that in the decades after the Nuremberg trials, the majority of Germans viewed the trials with contempt, as an exercise in victor’s justice.
Now Nuremberg is generally viewed in Germany with respect, both as an event that prodded Germans to a collective reckoning with their troubled past and as a vital contribution to the developing body of international law. So if Milosevic’s prosecutors have struggled to do justice to a complex history, history also will take time to do justice to the trial.


March 20, 2006 3 comments


U.S. officials are investigating 23 Bosnian Serb men and a woman living in Phoenix for links they might have had to the 1995 Srebrenica massacre – the worst war crime committed in Europe since the fall of Nazi Germany.
So far, agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the FBI have arrested the 24 who were in either the Bratunac or Zvornik brigades that orchestrated the slaughter in July 1995, capturing, holding, executing, burying and re-burying the more then 8,000 Muslim men and boys.
All 24 former soldiers have been charged with immigration violations. Some remain under investigation for possible torture charges, under a little used law that is the only way U.S. prosecutors can try suspected foreign war criminals or human rights abusers other than on immigration violations. Often they are just deported.
War crimes investigators told Newsday while many of the soldiers were not involved directly, war crimes investigators said, the Bratunac Brigade’s MP platoon was a central cog of the killing machine.
Throughout the United States, federal investigators and lawyers are working on about 1,000 cases of suspected human rights abusers from more than 85 countries, and they believe there are many more undiscovered suspects living in the United States.
Mladen Blagojevic and Zdravko Bozic were soldiers in the Bratunac Brigade’s military police platoon. Until recently, they were enjoying comfortable, American lives in the quiet streets of Phoenix.
As a result of an investigation into possible Srebrenica war criminals living in the United States that started in 2003, Bozic is in the final stages of deportation proceedings.
After spending nearly a year in prison for immigration fraud, he is likely to be deported soon – not to his native Bosnia but to Serbia, where he is less likely to be investigated for his possible involvement in Srebrenica.
Blagojevic, an electrician, was living until recently in a home he shared in north Phoenix with his wife and son. Since he spoke to a Newsday reporter there in November, he has moved.
Already charged with lying about his membership in the Bosnian Serb military, he has been under investigation for his possible involvement in torture during the Srebrenica massacre, according to federal officials.
Although never used by a prosecutor since it became law in 1994, the federal torture statute’s maximum penalty is death.
Bozic and Blagojevic, the two former comrades in war, are not alone in Phoenix. So far, agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the FBI have arrested 24 Bosnian Serbs in Phoenix who were in either the Bratunac or Zvornik brigades at the time of the massacre. Those brigades played central roles in capturing, holding, executing, burying and re-burying the more then 8,000 Bosniak men and boys killed in July 1995.
Investigators so far have not accumulated evidence that enables them to charge either with war crimes, but they continue to investigate Blagojevic.
The Arizona cluster of Srebrenica soldiers is, for sheer numbers, perhaps the starkest example yet of the wider phenomenon of foreign war crimes suspects finding sanctuary in the affluent anonymity of America’s cities and suburbs. Federal investigators and lawyers are working on about 1,000 cases of suspected human rights abusers from more than 85 countries – and they believe there are many more undiscovered suspects living in the United States.
While prosecutors are often successful in briefly jailing and then deporting suspects, many are frustrated at what they consider gaps in the law, leaving them unable to pursue the suspects for their original crimes rather than for immigration violations.
Some human rights activists suspect the one law prosecutors do have in their arsenal – the 1994 torture statute – will remain unused under any Bush administration attorney general, given the administration’s own entanglements in torture controversies.
Some federal officials and human rights activists fear the situation has given the United States a global reputation as a soft-touch sanctuary for people just like the 24 Bosnian Serb suspects in Arizona. All 24 former soldiers, including one woman, have been charged with immigration violations and some remain under investigation for possible torture charges, the only way U.S. prosecutors can try foreign war criminals or human rights abusers with a crime in the United States other than immigration violations.
A Bosnian Serb Army payroll document dated February 1995 and obtained by Newsday lists both men’s names on the platoon roster of 33 men. Investigators confirmed the men told federal authorities they were in the platoon and in the area at the time of the massacre. A source close to the case said federal investigators possess Bosnian Serb Army logs that place Bozic at key locations and times during the atrocities.
Bozic pleaded guilty in November 2004 to one charge of immigration fraud and one of perjury, essentially admitting he had lied to U.S. immigration authorities about his military service. In the plea, he acknowledges: “During July 1995, I was a member of the Military Police for the Bratunac Brigade of the VRS and worked in and around Bratunac and Potocari.”
It was in Potocari that the men and boys were separated from the women and children. The men were held in Bratunac before their mass murder. Many soldiers guarding the prisoners there at that time committed murder and acts of torture before the majority of the prisoners were bused to their execution sites, according to the few survivors of the killings and the testimony of former Bosnian Serb commanders during their own war crimes trials.
Mevludin Oric was one of a handful of men held in the buses overnight in Bratunac to survive the mass executions that followed. He now lives in a rundown village outside Sarajevo, his nights torn apart by memories of the terror he faced in Bratunac as the MPs guarded his bus.
The Serb soldiers were “laughing, singing Chetnik songs,” he said in an interview at a village cafe in December.
“They were firing above the buses. We were on the bus. We couldn’t hear directly what they were saying but they were clearly pleased … there was a Serb I recognized from school in Srebrenica. He got on the bus and started beating me. He demanded that I get off the bus so that he could kill me.”
Another of the very few survivors of the massacre, Hurem Suljic, who is believed to be living as a protected witness in the United States, told journalists after the massacre that the Serb soldiers in Bratunac tortured and killed dozens of prisoners.
Was it possible, Oric was asked, for a Serb soldier to be in Bratunac and not understand what was happening to the Muslim men and boys? No, he said. “All of them were killing. They were praying to God to give them a chance to kill someone. There were so many drunk soldiers in front of the bus demanding the MPs let them kill us.”
Neither Bozic nor Blagojevic has acknowledged committing war crimes. Bozic’s plea agreement includes admissions of guilt in relation to immigration charges only. Blagojevic told Newsday in an interview he had done nothing wrong.
But at the United Nations war crimes court in The Hague, commanders of the Bratunac Brigade and other units involved in the Srebrenica massacre have described in some detail what Blagojevic and Bozic’s platoon was doing at the time.
Momir Nikolic, a former neighbor of Blagojevic as well as chief of intelligence and security of the Bratunac Brigade, pleaded guilty in May 2003 at the UN tribunal to a crime against humanity for his role in the massacre. As part of his plea agreement, he gave a statement of facts.
On July 12, he said, the platoon helped with “the separation and detention of able-bodied Muslim men” from the women and children at the Dutch UN peacekeepers’ base in Potocari.
Thousands of terrified Bosniaks gathered there from Srebrenica to seek protection from the outnumbered Dutch soldiers as the Bosnian Serb Army seized control of the UN safe area around Srebrenica.
That day the Serb forces there, he said, “abused and assaulted many Muslim men and women … I also heard that some Muslim men were taken to isolated areas around Potocari and killed.”
Nikolic also described the MP platoon’s participation in guarding prisoners, noting: “It was reported to me that approximately 80 to 100 Muslims were murdered in the hangar near the Vuk Karadzic school in Bratunac” on July 13.
“Their bodies were deposited over a hillside and covered with dirt.” He did not specify which unit did the killing.
At one point Nikolic told of how he and a soldier in the MP platoon, Mile Petrovic – whose name is also on the payroll document obtained by Newsday – took six Bosniak men prisoner. Soon after, he said, Petrovic told him that he had killed the men in “revenge for my brother,” according to the statement.
In an interview in a country in the former Yugoslavia, a former Serbian paramilitary who was based in Bratunac for much of the Bosnian war said he was familiar with the activities of the platoon.
“If you want to know whether they [the MP unit] were shooting Srebrenicans in ’95, yes,” said the former paramilitary, who spoke on condition of anonymity. He said he did not know either Blagojevic or Bozic by name.
Last week another former Bosnian Serb soldier recalled in an interview with Newsday what he had witnessed at the Vuk Karadzic school. He spoke with numerous expletives, which have been deleted and, as he spoke, in a bar on the border between Bosnia and Montenegro, his hands shook so much he had to put his cigarette in an ashtray before it was finished.
As is common with Serbs, he referred to Muslims as “Turks” [which is considered highly derogatory term for Bosniaks (Bosnia’s Muslims)]
“I let inside two military policemen . They were holding a Turk while a civilian came with pliers and was breaking up his toes with pliers. I said what was that and he told me it wasn’t my … business … The sergeant told me that they came to avenge his brother that mujahedeen had killed … I couldn’t bear the screams. I would never do such a thing.
“There were others going into the hall and shouting Turk names … Some Turks were beaten to death and others were left bleeding. Corpses had to be dragged away. The school was littered with blood. And the children attend the school now. I would vomit to be taken there again.”
The timing of the Srebrenica massacre is highly relevant to possible torture charges because it allows prosecutors to indict those involved. Passed in November 1994, the torture statute does not cover crimes committed before that date.
So while Bozic will soon be deported, Blagojevic is still under investigation.”We’re still working evidence,” one official said. “The option exists because of the time frame of the events and everything else. If the evidence allows us to do that, that will be a consideration. And I suspect that’s something the U.S. attorney out there will buy.”
In an interview in October, Paul Charlton, the U.S. attorney for the district of Arizona, said he would want to prosecute a torture case if he had sufficient evidence.
“If torture had been there in terms of proof, we would have gone forward with a torture case,” he said. “What we have here in Arizona are individuals who may or may not have been involved in torture.”
Charlton said he has devoted considerable time and resources to investigating the Bosnian Serb suspects and sent an assistant U.S. attorney, together with an FBI agent, an ICE agent and an expert witness, to visit prosecutors in The Hague to collect evidence.
The same team had tried earlier to find witnesses among the large Bosniak immigrant population of St. Louis, showing Srebrenica survivors photographs of the former soldiers arrested in Phoenix.
More FBI and ICE investigators sought witnesses and evidence in many U.S. cities and, according to other sources, in Bosnia.
Investigators and translators from the Srebrenica team of the prosecutor’s office in The Hague came to Arizona to assist in the investigation and help interview the first four suspects arrested, including Bozic. In spite of the efforts, Charlton and his team did not come up with evidence that Bozic and Blagojevic had been involved in war crimes.
“In this particular case, ICE used every legal remedy available against Mr. Bozic, ultimately resulting in a one-year prison sentence and his removal order from the United States,” said a spokesman for the Human Rights Violators and Public Safety Unit, the office in Immigration and Customs Enforcement that seeks out foreign war criminals and human rights abusers living in the United States.
“It is our hope that any allegations of war crimes lodged against Mr. Bozic, if substantiated, will be fully prosecuted by the proper tribunal.” But if Bozic does make it to Serbia, he almost certainly will be beyond the reach of the Bosnian State Court, which handles war crimes trials in Bosnia. Officials there say it is almost unthinkable that Serbia would extradite anyone to Bosnia – and if Bozic becomes a Serbian citizen, it would be illegal.
Federal investigators told Newsday they believe there are more former soldiers from the Bosnian Serb Army who may have been involved in the Srebrenica massacre and are now living in the United States. They declined to give numbers.
“We have people here who may have lied to enter the United States,” Charlton said. “We have people here we’re prosecuting who may be able to provide us with information that would lead us to other individuals who are involved in this. So the investigation is ongoing because of both of those concerns.”


March 20, 2006 Comments off



I thought it would be appropriate today to reprint the essence of my article published in the Turkish Daily News on June 9, 2001 as a suitable obituary for Slobodan Milosevic, who cheated the International Criminal Court at The Hague and his victims by escaping a guilty verdict on 66 counts, more than one crime for each of his 64 criminal years. His death once again divides his victims and the Western world on the one side and his Serbian supporters on the other, many of whom consider him a Serbian hero and a fascist nationalist demagogue in spite of the fact that he led Serbia to four military defeats. His wife blamed the International War Crimes Tribunal for his death, omitting the fact that her husband, with whom she collaborated, was the “Butcher of the Balkans” and responsible for the biggest carnage in Europe since World War II.
Adolf Hitler and Slobodan were the misguided products of the last century. Both criminal careers could have been averted by their unfortunate mothers through miscarriages. Europeans deeply regret that both belong to European history. Slobodan was part of an unhappy family, as was Adolf. They were both born not too far from one another in Middle Europe.
Adolf hated the communists and as such became a fascist by reason of his convictions. Slobodan was a trained communist-turned-fascist by profession. Both dedicated their political careers to destruction rather than construction. To his discredit, Adolf succeeded in reducing the high and mighty Third Reich to rubble and into a virtual postwar colony. In the same vein Slobodan reduced what was left of the former Yugoslavia to the ruins of a pariah state. He misled it to complete isolation from the international community, banished for some time from all kinds of support and sympathy.
It is apparent that both Adolf and Slobodan had inborn killer instincts that were perfectly concealed until they came to power by means of blind popular support. They could perhaps fit into the theory of Italian criminologist Lombrozo, since both had committed premeditated crimes against humanity in which they took great pride.
Some 20 million of the total dead from World War II were victims of Hitler’s folly. Six million hapless Jews will rise up and testify against him. Over 200,000 Bosnians and Croatians will rise from their shallow graves along with 342,000 ethnically cleansed Kosovar Albanians to bear witness against Slobodan. Hitler apparently never heard of the gas chambers, and Slobodan labeled as sheer fabrication the mass graves, concentration camps, reminiscent of Nazi atrocities, and thousands of collective rapes.
Milosevic was the evil architect and chief instigator of racial hatred, first in Croatia, then in full force in Bosnia and later in Kosovo; Hitler was his mentor as a professional exterminator. The stories of butchery in Vukovar and Srebrenica suffice to condemn him.
What happened in Bosnia alone was the genocide of the Bosnians as a race and as a culture. Slobodan erased and razed to the ground the Bosnian historic relics of the past. As Hitler’s Third Reich collapsed because it stood on no moral or humane ground, Milosevic let down millions of Serbs who had followed him blindly, failing miserably. Both left behind untold misery and tragedy for European history. In politics nothing fails like failure.
Slobodan was a carbon copy of Adolf, adopting his ugly nationalism as policy. However, statistically he was no match for his mentor. Slobodan used and misused ethnic nationalism and exploited it to its fullest, which was to backfire as never before. Milosevic was the first head of state to be tried in an international court. If former Yugoslavian leader Tito were to rise up from his grave, he would have Slobodan court-martialed and shot for nothing less than high treason to Yugoslavia.
Milosevic helped the Serbian economy literally go bankrupt. I recall that in 1995 Belgrade sent an unofficial but forceful representative minus the rank of ambassador to Zagreb under the misnomer of “Liaison Office.” In the course of his making the rounds of the diplomatic corps, he requested a courtesy meeting with the then Turkish ambassador. As a gesture of friendship, since Turkey had maintained its embassy in Belgrade, a meeting was held with obvious pleasure. This was a wide-ranging diplomatic exchange of views that lasted until lunchtime.
This get-together coincided with a period when Milosevic’s forces were gaining ground in Bosnia. Just a few days earlier the U.S. secretary of defense was quoted in the media as having said, “Milosevic won the war.” This obviously was more than a diplomatic blunder. I said this to the Serbian emissary: “If the U.S. secretary of defense was with us this morning, I would tell him how mistaken he was. I would even argue with him to the contrary. That is, the Serbs, and not the Bosnians, have lost the war with a bankrupt economy, thousands of percent inflation that is still on the rise, with an economy so dislocated and in such complete ruin that how can you win but lose.” To be fair, I was completely undiplomatic. He kept quiet and smiled. It was an educated guess, to be proven correct in the end. Milosevic lost the poker game, not just once in Bosnia but again for the second time in Kosovo.
Milosevic’s freefall began in Kosovo, where his Serbian forefathers had been defeated by the Ottoman sultan in 1389. He based his entire political career on the historic premise of revenge and ethnic hate. But he was to end where he began — on the Kosovo plains, in a zero-sum game that he bitterly lost. He was a mythomaniac and a great megalomaniac, for which he paid the price. He fanatically led the Serbs in marking their 1389 defeat every year on June 28. Fate had it that he was handed over for trial on almost the same date.
He came from a deranged family; both his parents were known to be suicidal characters who eventually killed themselves. Milosevic is on record as having said he would kill himself “rather than surrender to the court in The Hague,” but was in the event handed over to the International Criminal Court for $1.2 billion and to save Yugoslavia’s skin. The jury will be out for the foreseeable future as to whether he really killed himself as the trial was coming to an end, or whether he played his Russian roulette once too many times in his deliberate efforts to worsen his health by taking medicine that successfully negated the benefits of his other medication in a bid to be sent off to Moscow for treatment.
The end of the road is a surprise, not only to the big-game war criminals but also to the small fries such as the “butcher of Bosnia” Dr. Karadzic, a psychotic case, and the notorious Serbian Gen. Mladic, along with many of their war crimes collaborators who are waiting to be collected and delivered to The Hague to defend themselves.
Hitler did not survive to stand trial in the Nuremberg War Crimes Tribunal and, in the end, Milosevic, who had escaped the public death meted out to his other mentors, Italian fascist Benito Mussolini and Romanian dictator Nicolai Ceaucescu, managed to evade the court’s verdict by his death, over which controversy will continue for some time on whether he outwitted the court by design or chance. But he cannot evade the verdict of history or that of the consciences and minds of his victims. His indictment is written in the tortuous history of the Balkans, but it is indeed an affront to the collective international conscience and to his victims that he has evaded the punishment which would have been meted out to him for his crimes of genocide, systematic murder and ethnic cleansing of Bosnians and Kosovar Albanians.